[06 September 2022] A few months ago, I made a conscious decision to opt for public transportation as my main form of transport to and from work, and on occasion, to get around the Klang Valley.
Despite many curious questions from friends and family, it's been a highly enjoyable and even liberating experience thus far.
My daily commutes to work now get me on my feet, and I've been able to see more areas of the Klang Valley that I've never seen before. Where public transport isn't easily accessible, trips around my locale — to restaurants, the supermarket, and for leisure — are as simple as stepping outside and hopping on an e-scooter. The same can be said for trips around the Klang Valley too, as an e-scooter easily takes me to the nearest public transit station or bus stop. But admittedly, the journey can be far smoother.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, after decades of expedited, car-centric developments across the Klang Valley, our bustling city of more than eight million people isn't particularly well-connected. For decades, public transport availability and pedestrian infrastructure have been disconnected and inadequate, forcing people to resort to private cars even for trips to the nearest convenience store.
First and last-mile connectivity continues to be a long-standing issue for us Malaysians.
Large-scale transit projects can do well to move many people across cities and towns, but it does leave more to be desired when we consider how we are to complete our entire journey. However, while I do believe that shared micro mobility vehicles have the potential to be a solution to our connectivity woes, having to wait for designated pedestrian and micro mobility infrastructure means Malaysians will not be able to reap the full rewards of our e-scooters in the near future.
And do we need more construction projects before we can integrate e-scooters into our daily commutes?
Micro mobility is already outlined in our 12th Malaysia Plan, and government provisions to encourage its use as a first- and last-mile connector are already in place. For shared micro mobility services such as Beam, we go further than just being a transport partner but also create jobs in the gig economy wherever we operate. Coming out of Covid-19, job creation is important to spur the local economy.
Shared e-scooters are becoming more prevalent across the country, while various improvements to streetside infrastructure are concurrently being undertaken.
While these changes may seem slow, the Klang Valley's significantly larger population and area provides a momentous challenge that requires time, research, and an undeterred commitment from all stakeholders — the government, local councils, private agencies, and the people — to undo decades of urbanised car-centric development and encourage change to our personal commuting habits.
In my few months of depending less on my car and more on public transportation and micro mobility vehicles, places I once drove through without much thought now seem warmer, livelier, and more familiar as I see more things I hadn't noticed before. I wander and take different routes to and from work every time — eating at new places for lunch and shopping at a variety of local businesses.
These interactions help me find a sense of place, camaraderie among strangers, all of whom live in a huge and continuously evolving city such as ours. While I understand that many of our streets are still inaccessible and uncomfortable for most Malaysians, they are being attended to. Our accessibility at street level will improve over time, and so will the state of our commutes.
And soon, I hope that my positive experiences in relying less on my car for my daily, single-person commutes will become a norm for Malaysians as we all find better ways of getting around.